Weighing the rearranged parliamentary landscape following an election upset such as Canadians pulled off last week resembles picking through the rubble after a devastating house fire.
Thankfulness everyone made it out without injury or loss of life balances the difficulties that lie ahead.
Elizabeth May won the Green’s first ever federal seat, but she goes to Ottawa without benefit of fellow Green MPs. It will be a lonely working life for her. Because she would need 12 elected MPs to achieve party status she will be starved for funds to hire staff and do research.
Prime Minister Harper has signaled he intends getting rid of the taxpayer funding of elected members so that when the next election comes around, May will have to scrounge for party donations to bankroll her re-election.
On election night, Sheila Copps explained such taxpayer funding was put in place so MPs would not have to kowtow to big business or unions, leaving MPs free to vote in parliament the way they felt was best for all Canadians, sidestepping the influence of multinationals or major unions.
Jack Layton will have the arduous task of indoctrinating about 60 rookie MPs, many of whom are fluent in only one official language. Knowing from experience the disproportionate amount of time an employer (or leader) must devote teaching a new recruit the ways of any job, Layton will be pulling double shifts for months, even though he plans to buddy up his MPs, assigning each veteran two rookies to mentor.
The absence of so many long time MPs who did not run for re-election plus four cabinet ministers losing to other parties must be sinking in on Harper. For me, it means reading through my address book and replacing familiar names and their email addresses with those of Harper’s new cabinet… whenever he gets around to naming them.
Using on-line exit polls to ask party members if they think their party leader should stay on or go, and then have 65 percent of respondents say he ought to go – that has to be hard for a defeated leader to face. It offers no wiggle room. And so Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff resigned before I finished my first cup of morning coffee.
The many women in Layton’s ranks gives me hope this parliament will be a kinder, gentler place, but that may be wishful thinking. Women can be as rowdy and abrasive as men. Forty of Layton’s MPs are women. One quarter of the 308 elected members are women.
Looking at Canada in its post-election colours, the prairies show up as a sea of Conservative blue, with a lone red Liberal riding held by Ralph Goodale huddling in southern Saskatchewan. Does Goodale feel as lonely as his riding looks?
Most stunning last week was voters handing Harper a majority despite his many recent breaches of parliamentary principles.
“Such breaches,” says the Ottawa Citizen, “would include a contempt of Parliament ruling; support in the House for dissembling cabinet minister Bev Oda; the calculated spreading of ignorance about parliamentary democracy (characterizing the legitimate notion of “coalition,” for example, as evil); shutting down Parliament to avoid uncomfortable questions; dictating only selective contact with the nation’s press; instructing local candidates to similarly evade scrutiny by avoiding all-candidates meetings.”
Because the opposition has less voice against Harper’s majority, he is now free to pass any law he chooses, so long as he believes we will have forgiven him by next election four years hence.
Expect the long gun registry to disappear as soon as the budget is passed, though Canada-wide, law enforcement supports it, as do victims of crime.